PC Magazine September 2019

PC Magazine provides lab-tested reviews, detailed tips and how-tos, insightful feature stories, expert commentary, and the latest tech trends to help you at work, at home, and on the road. And for a limited time, we're offering a copy of Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation with new subscriptions. This brand-new book is all about what made Atari's computers great: excellent graphics and sound, flexible programming environment, and wide support.

United States
Ziff Davis
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
war and pcs

In yet another “science fiction becomes reality” scenario, we are rapidly evolving our capabilities to attack one another via cyberspace. This type of battling may be bloodless, but it’s incredibly dangerous—and we’re only just beginning to discover how dangerous. Though the term “cyber war” may sound like a histrionic B-movie, you’re no doubt aware that cyber-sallies have been happening in real life, for years. Goals range from stealing information to influencing an enemy’s citizens (in elections and elsewhere) to disrupting a country’s critical infrastructure, potentially causing widespread destruction and death. And it’s not limited to nations: Aggressive non-state actors—including terrorists, criminals, and hacktivists—can cause plenty of damage. In September’s cover story, PCMag’s executive editor for news and features, Chloe Albanesius, explores the topic of Cyber War: Its history and origins, the current…

3 min
dealing with ransomware

Taxpayers should be outraged. You can bet that’s the money used to pay off the crooks.—YouWishYou Knew It’s not so much that the taxpayers’ money is going to people who don’t deserve it as that their leaders are investing in the next crime’s development and deployment. I sure have sympathy for the situation they’re in, but paying the ransom’s a crime itself: something like racketeering or promoting criminal enterprise.—Dave Nadir So I have a drive that’s disconnected. Can I press Windows reset to wipe and restore the computer? And how would I know if my backup is safe? Maybe they infected me months ago. Maybe we should call Liam Neeson to find them.—JP Farnsworth Max Eddy gave compelling reasons to not pay the ransom demanded. Fine. But what if a concern such as,…

5 min
why ai is terrible at content moderation

Every day, Facebook’s artificial intelligence algorithms tackle the enormous task of finding and removing millions of posts containing spam, hate speech, nudity, violence, and terrorist propaganda. And though the company has access to some of the world’s most coveted talent and tech, it’s struggling to find and remove toxic content fast enough. In March, a shooter in New Zealand live-streamed the brutal killing of 51 people in two mosques on Facebook. The social media giant’s algorithms failed to detect the gruesome video. It took Facebook an hour to take the video down, and even then, the company was hard-pressed to deal with users who reposted the video. Facebook recently published figures on how often its AI algorithms successfully find problematic content. Though the report shows that the company has made tremendous advances…

6 min
black hat 2019: the craziest, most terrifying things we saw

The Las Vegas sun has set on another Black Hat and the myriad of hacks, attacks, and vulnerabilities it brings. We had high expectations this year and were not disappointed. We were even occasionally surprised. Here are all the great and terrifying things we saw. PHONY PHONES Thanks to Afilias for showing us these weird devices: a group of phones that look great but are actually low-cost fakes from China. Each costs about $50, and come preloaded with malware for no extra charge! The bogus iPhone is particularly impressive. It runs a highly modified version of Android that’s a dead ringer for iOS. It even has a carefully made fake compass app, albeit one that always points up. MISSILES FOR MALWARE Security researcher Mikko Hypponen pondered the consequences of cyberwar becoming an actual shooting…

3 min
facebook takes first steps in creating mind-reading technology

Still use Facebook even after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Libra, and more privacy and ethics violations than you and your extended family can count on their fingers and toes? Then you should have no ethical concerns over the computer-brain interface the company began developing two years ago. Now, the first fruit of its labor has arrived. A Facebook-sponsored experiment at the University of California, San Francisco has successfully created an interface that translates brain signals into dialogue; results were published in Nature Communication. The software determines what you’ve heard and said in reply without access to any audio of the conversation. It uses high-density electrocorticography (ECoG), which requires sensors implanted in the brain, so there is no immediate concern for any non-consensual mind reading on Facebook’s part. It’s clear from the…

3 min
no, video games are not a factor in mass shootings

El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio both saw horrific mass shootings in August, prompting another round of “What’s causing this?” Rather than acknowledge the political motivations of the El Paso shooter or the line of radicalization that led him toward reactionary white supremacy, a number of politicians have returned to a popular scapegoat: video games. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and President Donald Trump all cited violent video games as a factor in these shootings and other acts of violence in the US. These complaints are a decades-old, unsubstantiated distraction. There is no significant evidence linking video games to mass shootings. Video games are not unique to the United States and are incredibly popular worldwide. According to NewZoo, the United States is the number-two video game market in…